ARIANNA

to be premiered

EXCERPT

Arianna is nineteen years old and still has not had her first menstrual cycle. Despite the fact that her breasts have become slightly enlarged, which causes her some discomfort, the hormones her gynecologist prescribed for her do not seem to be helping with her maturation. One summer her parents decide to take her back to the lake house in Bolsena where they all used to go on vacation. Arianna has not been back there since she was three years old. While staying in the house, old memories start to come back to Arianna and like pieces of a puzzle, start to slowly fall into place. When her parents tell her it is time to return to the city for a few days, Arianna wants to stay behind to study for her exams. Her father accepts, but for some reason the idea makes her mother extremely uncomfortable; actually her mother has been acting strangely ever since they arrived at the lake house. On her own, as the first afternoons go by slowly and silently, Arianna’s investigation of her past also includes the exploration of her body. The encounter with her young cousin Celeste, whose feminine figure is distinctly different than Arianna’s, as well as the fact that, unlike her, Celeste has already lost her virginity, pushes Arianna to confront the true nature of her sexuality.

 

 When I was a ten-year-old boy, I remember having a recurring dream and every time I would wake up perplexed: I would dream I was walking through the streets and squares in the center of Rome at night, and I was a thirty or fourty-year-old woman. I have always wondered what that dream meant, and why a little boy would dream of being a woman. Many years later, a dear friend made me reflect: in his opinion, it was as if the fundamental ontological question that we all ponder sooner or later, the meaning of our existence and our presence in this world, in my case, had taken on a sort of erotic character that would make me question my identity for many years to come. When I went to live in the United States for work, I decided to delve deeper into the matter. I followed a group of intersexuals who had just begun to make themselves heard, with the intention to make a documentary. After a few months I abandoned the project because I wanted to transform it into a real film. After several years of deliberation, I was finally able to create a story, and Arianna is the result of this long process. The themes of hermaphroditism and androgyny have been explored countless times in literature, eliciting curiosity and interest in readers since ancient times. Homer mentions them in the Odyssey, as do Plato in the Symposium, Ovid in the Metamorphoses, Sophocles in Antigone, Virginia Woolf in Orlando, Tahar Ben Jelloun in that marvellous work entitled The Sand Child, and, perhaps most notably, Jeffrey Eugenides in Middlesex. This theme has also aroused the interest of filmmakers in recent years. One example of note is Argentine director Lucia Puenzo’s beautiful film, XXY (2007). What it boils down to then is it is a theme that can be traced back to the classics and yet still has entire “regions” that remain to be explored. And exploring the theme even further, Arianna is a film that investigates the relationship between the power of authority and abnormality as well as the consequences of the conflict between them. It also asks the question: “How can cinema be described as political without dealing with such issues?” Better yet, recalling the friendly provocation of the great master of lighting, in love with Italian cinema, Darius Khonndji: “Why aren’t more political films made in Italy?”. I think this can only be done through the use of micro stories, in the relationship between the social system and the individual, in obscure brutality watered down by modern democracy. Only on the small scale, in the apparent private defeats that undermine (even more when the subject has an abnormality) the frightened and immune “system of power”, can it be done. I say this because I believe the medical system, contrary to what one would think, has carefully honed its weapons. In a sense, the explicit violence of the Church of the fifteenth century against monstrosities (physical and moral) was less severe than the current regulatory system. Today, for a “hermaphrodite”, an intersexual, the escape from the guileful medical corrective procedures is much more convoluted because they are not presented as being aggressive. In this sense, in this unconscious process, authority uses its power in a way that is much more cunning. In Arianna, the conflict between authority and abnormality is centered around the main character, Arianna (who unknowingly underwent normalization surgery to become a girl) and her family, especially her father, Marcello, who, despite his good intentions, will go so far as to inflict violence on his own flesh and blood to defend what he believes is right. Even Arianna’s relationship with her boyfriend, Martino, suffers as a consequence. Arianna’s abnormality impedes the consummation of normal heterosexual intercourse, which causes her grief. Around the same time, the renewed encounter with Arianna’s cousin, Celeste, who, unlike her, has become a woman within a year, leaving her behind in physical development as well as sexual experiences, flings her into a labyrinth of existential doubts that inevitably illicit a response. Arianna is, therefore, a film about us. By discussing hermaphroditism, it defines the boundaries of authority’s jurisdiction, which is always exercised over those who pose a threat to it, whether or not they do so intentionally. It also concerns us because it shows how by maintaining the status quo at all costs, the processing of data and meaning is sacrificed. Therefore, we avoid looking directly at the unexpected fluidity of ones own identity as well as at the abundance of input the world constantly offers us. The hermaphrodite, wonderful embodiment of this abundance, is the intended victim of all severity: the non-polarized image, neither A nor B, the dialectical image embodied. This film is the struggle waged between the hermaphrodite and the power of authority. With this film, the obscene is allowed to burst onto the scene (an oxymoron that could only be possible in contemporary society).  The hermaphrodite, epitome of the obscene and the incarnation of “evil”, precludes the possibility of family, society, and therefore of state, and for this reason authority has always tended to fear it. This has been true for at least as long as the powers-that-be have lost their ability to integrate the obscene into regular life, if only by assigning it a sacred, metaphysical space, as the ancient Greeks once did. It is the duty of the contemporary world, and therefore of cinema, to divest hermaphroditism of its reputation as a threat.

CARLO LAVAGNA

Director

CARLO LAVAGNA

A Production of
RING FILM
With
RAI CINEMA
In Association with
ANG FILM
ASMARA FILMS
ESSENTIA

Domestic Distributor
ISTITUTO LUCE-CINECITTÁ

International Sales
RAI COM

Actors
ONDINA QUADRI
MASSIMO POPOLIZIO
VALENTINA CARNELUTTI
BLU YOSHIMI
CORRADO SASSI
EDUARDO VALDARNINI
LIDIA VITALE

Produced by
TOMMASO BERTANI
With
CARLO LAVAGNA
DAMIANO TICCONI

Script
CARLO SALSA
CARLO LAVAGNA
CHIARA BARZINI

Cinematography
HELENE LOUVART

Editing
LIZI GELBER

Original Soundtrack
EMANUELE DE RAYMONDI

Production Design
FABRIZIO D’ARPINO

Costume Designer
ZAZIE GNECCHI RUSCONE

Make Up
BENEDETTA DEL VECCHIO

Sound
IVANO MATALDI

1st Assistant Director
MARCELLO DE ARCHANGELIS

Associate Producers
MISHKA CHEYKO
GINEVRA ELKANN
LEONARDO GUERRA SERÁGNOLI

Line Producer
MASSIMILIANO NAVARRA